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Category Archives: Other Art

Urban Arts Berlin's Ballardian Soundscapes compilation

The German organization Urban Arts Berlin has released another one of its nifty compilations of music by artists from all around the world. This one is called Ballardian Soundscapes and as you would surmise it consists of music inspired by the work of the late novelist and A-level provocateur J.G. Ballard.

Am pleased to report that Leila M. & Tired of Triangles’ “The Drowned World” made the cut! You can stream and download this and other tracks via Bandcamp at: https://urbanartsberlin.bandcamp.com/album/ballardian-soundscapes

This is a cool compilation. A lot of the tracks seem to embody a darker, dystopian, electronic-based sound that fits right in with new brutalism architecture and some of Ballard’s more unnerving storylines. A few of the tracks feel reminiscent of Zoviet France. One of the tracks, Russell Lowe’s “Depopulous Nirvana,” feels like a perfect mix between Sunn O))) and Oneohtrix Point Never. I look forward to listening to this more in the coming days while reading and whatnot.

Leila and I are honored to have been included.

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The late Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller

Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller has passed away, at age 78. Müller was of international renown and among the most skilled in his trade. He was the kind of cameraman and technician who elevated every film he worked on, and whose compositions have been seen and adored by millions. Not all of the viewers who’ve seen his cinematography would know Müller by name, but many of them would no doubt recall, for example, the Southwestern American vistas and neon-lit roadside oases of Paris, Texas as if they had experienced them firsthand. Indeed, Muller’s cinematography could be so vivid in conjunction with the storylines of the films he worked on that it made audiences feel as if they were right there.

I was first impressed by Müller’s sharp camera work in my early twenties, when I rented a spate of VHS tapes of Seventies Wim Wenders films from Video Visions in Milwaukee. Even though the format and film-to-video transfers didn’t do the films justice, the films themselves could still be appreciated as consummate works of art. Am talking here about The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (which was recently restored but has yet to be reissued on DVD or blu-ray disc), and the loose “Road Trilogy” of Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, and Kings of the Road (essential cinema that was restored prior to being reissued by Criterion in a super-cool boxset). If you haven’t seen this work, I implore you to give it a go, regardless of what you might have heard or might think of Wenders’s work in general. These films are worth seeing for Müller’s imagery alone. More than any other director of photography I can think of, Müller was adept at filming actors in cars with a freshness of perspective that could make the viewer feel like being in the passenger or driver’s seat, primed for adventures along the highway.

Müller also did fine cinematography on films by Jim Jarmusch (whose work I usually like), and he shot movies like Repo Man, Saint Jack, and Barfly, which aren’t quite as good but can be approached as interesting curiosity pieces. And of course that only scratches the surface (as a I often say in these short-form eulogies).

One Sunday evening in the Summer of 2017 I happened to wake up rather late. Checking Facebook I noticed a friend of a friend mention that Until the End of the World was going to be shown in the middle of the night on Turner Classic Movies. They were set to screen “the director’s cut.” Yes, the version of the film that clocked in at nearly five hours long. I had never seen it in any form, and had intimated it had its flaws, but I didn’t have any obligations the following morning, so it seemed worth staying up and watching. “Why not?” I figured. The full version of Until the End of the World turned out to be frustratingly uneven as it progressed, showing a lack of focus as it began to feel more like an endurance test than a movie. However, it wasn’t without its charms and had some good scenes here and there, especially during its second half. One thing that eased the long sit and kept me from giving up on it, as the plot seemed to spin in different directions, was the cinematography by Robby Müller. Characteristic of his work, the film looked great. Very colorful and pristine, lending the proceedings an inviting tenor they could have easily lacked in less capable hands.

Still from Until the End of the World

It is not everyday that I encounter something on the internet worth passing on to everyone, but today is such a day. A French blog has unleashed a series of photographs by one Stephane Fontana that painstakingly reveal what various locations in Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou look like fifty-three years later. I love this sort of thing. It doesn’t hurt that Pierrot Le Fou has been a favorite for nearly twenty years and was a formative influence on my conception of what a film could be. Some of these images and locales along the Riviera are practically seared into my DNA at this point. The original post, which is very much worth seeing, can be viewed here. Excellent work!

The legendary Art Bell just passed away at age 72. As far as radio hosts go, Bell was to paranormal subject matter what someone like Vin Scully was to baseball. If you’ve ever had an interest in aliens or U.F.O.s, the infamous Men in Black, ghosts, cryptids, remote viewing, telekinesis, the Simulation Hypothesis, the Mandela Effect, out-of-body experiences, the Akashic records — not to mention more scientifically legitimized subjects like theoretical physics, “futurism,” or cosmology and astronomy — there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Bell’s shows Coast to Coast AM and Midnight in the Desert. And you might have tuned in over the years. If you did you probably heard some eyebrow-raising interviews with such people of note as the never-dull Terrence McKenna, authors like Jim Elvidge and Robert Anton Wilson, scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku, remote viewer Ingo Swann, ufologists, and… self-proclaimed time travelers. As a person unfamiliar with the shows might rightly assume, there were, naturally, several charlatans, especially during the call-ins. But that’s part of what made Bell’s forums for fringe subjects so entertaining. They were like all-you-can-eat buffets for all manner of strangeness, ranging from the true, to the plausible, to the hypothetical, to the completely bat-shit insane. If you were in the mood for it you could be alternately puzzled, informed, petrified with terror, intrigued, filled with laughter, and so on.

Though I’d known about them for a while, I only started listening to Bell’s broadcasts in the last several years, via archived files available on the internet. What struck me almost immediately was Bell’s penchant for being a great talker. He instinctively understood how to keep the conversations alive, asking just the right questions, knowing how to draw out the most tantalizing information from his interviewees. Art Bell seemed like a cool guy, a real mensch. And he had a great voice for radio! In an era in which all too many radio hosts have shrill and/or off-putting ways of speaking (I’m looking at you, Alex Jones, and countless “shock-jock” morning DJs), it shouldn’t be taken for granted when a talk show host puts his guests and listeners at ease. I often got the impression that Bell could more than meet his guests halfway, humoring even the least believable of them as a form of courtesy, even if he didn’t completely buy it.

And as a skeptic of sorts, that’s close to my own stance—it’s fun to entertain these things even if I don’t quite believe in most of them. Being a difficult-to-please cinephile, to me it’s more fun to listen to someone talk about how people of the future might theoretically expand human civilization beyond Earth than it is to watch a typically-stylized Hollywood movie about it. Bell created an arena in which people all over the world could communicate about this and many other subjects you weren’t likely to see being covered in the nightly news or on 60 Minutes. He dedicated much of his life to this and in doing so provided a tremendous service, especially in the days before the internet became what it is today. Art Bell will be missed by many, and those interested in a more biographical tribute should be sure not to miss Coast to Coast AM’s own eulogy to him here.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go listen to Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” on repeat a few times.

Kaji-Pup Records, the independent label I’m associated with, has just put out its second release, and its first recording of 2018! Behold: a split between Leila M. & Tired of Triangles and Tired of Triangles, “The Drowned World” b/w “Z.F.G.”

A scan of the A side of Kaji-Pup Records' second release

In my humble opinion this is, to date, the best recording I’ve had a hand in making. It’s a rather atypical slab of wax in that the A side is a brooding soundscape homage to J.G. Ballard’s second novel of the same name, and the B side is a fuzzed-out rock track with post-punk and psychedelic leanings, not to mention a lot of moving parts and ample “attitude.”

When I have time to catch my breath I might elaborate on this release further, but for now please check it out on Bandcamp at: https://leilamandtiredoftriangles.bandcamp.com/album/the-drowned-world-b-w-z-f-g

And you can hear the tracks on YouTube as well:

Yé-yé girl extraordinare France Gall

A sincere, belated “requiescat in pace” goes out to beloved French chanteuse, and O.G. yé-yé girl extraordinaire, Isabelle “France” Gall. A natural-born singer from a musical family, Gall sold a whopping 200,000 copies of one single at the age of 16. She went on to win the Eurovision contest with a song penned by Serge Gainsbourg and soon her status as an ultra-chic Sixties French pop singer was cemented. Gall was of course known for her beautiful looks and a little “sass” (a bit of it intentional, some of if not). Naturally it didn’t hurt that she managed to work with several worthy songsmiths and musicians over the years, one of whom, Michel Berger, she married. But it was Gall’s golden voice and general goodnatured demure that propelled her career, until her retirement in the mid-1990s.

Though admittedly I haven’t explored all of the France Gall back catalog yet, my personal favorite song of hers is 1968’s “Rue de l’abricot,” which may well be the most “French sounding” post-war composition one is likely to come across. And in the right context who could resist dancing to her 1964 club classic “Laisse tomber les filles,” which reached Number 4 on the Billboard chart and still sounds like sheer seduction? Hell, I’m even fond of Gall’s “Sacré Charlemagne,” which some qualify as children’s music.

Though all of these songs may be attached to an era or series of “moments” in the progression of pop music, they make for very timeless art to me. I hope this music lasts forever.

Leila M. & Tired of Triangles, a musical duo based in Southwest Florida

Near the end of 2016 I met and started hanging out with fellow multidisciplinary artist Leila Mesdaghi. I found Leila charismatic, talented, full of good vibes, and easy to get to know, so it didn’t take long for us to hatch plans to work on an artistic collaboration of some sort. Since she played the traditional Middle Eastern instrument the tanbour (seen above), and I played the electric guitar, working on some music together didn’t seem like such a bad idea. If nothing else it was a healthy distraction from an impending Trump presidency and everything that would go along with it.

Fast forward to mid-August of 2017, and we are pleased to announce the release of a new, sexy little two-song 45rpm seven inch, “Intertwined Destinies” b/w “Crimson Gold,” seen here after being manufactured less than a week ago!

Our band name is naturally Leila M. and Tired of Triangles. This is the first release by the new Florida-based label Kaji-Pup Records. It’s a one-two punch of rhythmic songs that could be said to fall somewhere between Middle Eastern music and heavy rock. I am not 100% sure which genre boxes our music ticks (or doesn’t tick), but suffice it to say we got a big charge out of making it and then hearing the final results, so we decided it was worth taking the plunge and releasing it on wax!

“Intertwined Destines” b/w “Crimson Gold” can be streamed for free, as well as purchased on vinyl and/or digital at our Bandcamp site, at: https://leilamandtiredoftriangles.bandcamp.com/album/intertwined-destinies-b-w-crimson-gold

You can follow Kaji-Pup Records on Facebook here.

Lastly I made a spiel for Youtube in which you can hear me discussing some of the aesthetic and technical considerations that factored into this release. It is maybe a “nerdy” sort of video, but some people so far have said they’ve found it illuminating…

Jaki Liebezeit, in later years, drumming in London

German drummer and percussionist Jaki Liebezeit, formerly of the band Can, has passed away. He was a real powerhouse behind the kit with metronomic precision, creative fills left and right, and an inherent sense of groove. In Can Liebezeit was a perfect foil for the band’s far-ahead-of-the-curve, almost utopian mixture of funk, psychedelic rock, jazz and avant-garde sensibilities, and (later on) disco. I have known and been acquainted with quite a few music obsessed people and almost all of them would rank Liebezeit’s drumming as being in a class all of its own. Those prime Can recordings are a well of sorts that people return to again and again, occasionally wondering how a band could be so cool and pull it off seemingly with ease–Liebezeit’s drumming and percussion was the glue that held it all together, and it remains a joy to behold. After Can, Liebezeit kept drumming. These subsequent projects are also worth investigating, but he could have done nothing else and his reputation as one of thee great drummers would have been well established. Jaki will be missed, but his work behind the kit will continue to live on. R.I.P.

Leonard Cohen live in Tampa, Florida

Singer-songwriter, poet/novelist, dapper ladies’ man, and perennial cool guy Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. It’s difficult to eulogize someone whose music has meant so much to so many people, over several decades, but I will say a few things. First, his debut LP, 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen, is required listening. Cohen made plenty of other music that’s worth delving into, but if for some bizarre reason you haven’t heard that first album, it’s probably not a bad idea to stop whatever you’re doing, hunt it down, and give it your undivided attention. Second, while he wrote, recorded, and performed a tower of fine music, “Dress Rehearsal Rag” in particular stands out to me as song like no other, a cinematic trip through the psyche of someone suffering from a severe form of quiet desperation. There’s something elemental about it that reaches the sublime and somehow makes it seem a lot more urgent and productive than the vast majority of dirges a person is likely to hear, including most of those that would fall under the banner of “angry tough guys with their amps cranked up” sort of music. Lastly, I was fortunate enough to see Leonard Cohen and his band live in October of 2009, at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, and it was a stellar experience. He could have phoned it in and much of the audience probably would’ve been flattered by his mere presence, but instead Cohen and his band pulled out all of the stops and gave it their all. From top to bottom, they cared about putting on a good show and it meant a lot to everyone in attendance. Here was an artist in his mid-seventies skipping onto the stage, kneeling to sing “Hallelujah,” revisiting “Everybody Knows” and over two dozen other songs from his back catalog with the verve of someone with his entire life ahead of him. It was quite inspired and something I’ll never forget. Rest in peace, L.C.

Director of photography Raoul Coutard

Earlier this week saw the death of French cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who left an indelible mark on many key francophone films of the Nouvelle Vague and beyond. Coutard’s shooting style was at times unorthodox and a marked contrast to that of the traditionally lit and blocked “cinema du papa”—he had a lot to do with why films like Pierrot Le Fou and Shoot the Piano Player became hallmarks of Sixties Modernism and would still seem so novel and fresh in the following decades. Coutard shot, among other things, Costa-Gavra’s Z (surely among the top ten overtly political films of the 20th Century) and Philippe Garrel’s The Birth of Love (which I’d rank as one of thee great films of the 1990s…just impossibly charming). And of course that only scratches the surface. The New York Times published a nice obituary here. Rest in peace, Raoul.